The following tips represent the top five things that have helped me the most to develop as a photographer, and I continually refer to these to further my development. I hope they can help you along your own journey, too.
1. Study images captured by the best photographers in your field. It sounds simple but it’s true; looking at good photographs will make you a better photographer.
Personally I’ve found that looking at other photographers’ work and studying what appeals to me in the images that I like has led to the most improvement in my photography. I really recommend you be stern in which images you study. Don’t study good photographs. Only study great photographs. A great photograph will make you stop and take notice and capture your interest. When looking at such images ask yourself the following questions:
- What elements immediately appeal to you in the image? Is it the light? The subject? The composition? Perhaps it was the low angle viewpoint? Understand what it is that you like so much from the image and then set out to include these elements in your own work. The more images you study the more apparent trends in what you like so much become.
- What time of day was the image was captured? Was it at pre-dawn or after sunrise? Try to establish a trend and then set out to shoot during the same times of the day.
- Observe the direction of lighting; is the light hitting the subject from the back, front or is the subject side lit?
- What subject continually makes for a strong image?
There are numerous online sources where you can seek out great photographs but none better, in my opinion, than 500px. Simply visit the ‘Popular’ and ‘Editors Choice’ sections and choose your respective genre (e.g. landscapes). There is even an iPhone app that you can download so that you can be inspired whilst you’re on the go.
2. Only show your very best images. I don’t mean just images you’re reasonably happy with but images you feel proud to show. There was once a question asked in a presentation by a successful photographer and they were asked a simple question from one of the audience members. The question was, “How to do you become a great photographer?” The successful photographer’s answer was then just as equally simple, “Never show anyone your bad photos.” I think this is very true. Just recently I’ve started to do better at this after a recent moment when I realized that I was sharing images on social media outlets because I felt the need to keep producing images regularly. By doing so I was compromising on quality and ultimately compromising my reputation along the way. Don’t make the same mistake that I made; only show your very best images.
If you’re in two minds or not sure about an image, then such an image is just not good enough! Only show images that you’re absolutely convinced are hero shots. Showing only five very strong images is much better than showing eight very strong photos coupled with two weak images. Those two weak images will greatly lessen the impact of the other eight and cause the viewer to change their perception about the quality of you as a photographer. The old golden rule still remains: quality is better than quantity.
3. This third rule is more applicable to landscape photography. In order to improve as a landscape photographer, you need to be incredibly persistent! If you visit a scene and you’ve captured an image that you’re not quite happy with because the lighting conditions weren’t the best, then don’t settle. Return to the same location until you capture an image of the same scene in amazing light.
If you speak to any seasoned landscape photographer, they will tell you that most of their trips and those painful early pre-dawn starts prove fruitless. Accept that you are not always going to come back with images to share. If you’re finding that you’re capturing a worthwhile image on each of your shoots then it’s not because you’re lucky but rather your quality expectations are not high enough!
It takes years to build a collection of images that you can feel proud of, and I have the utmost respect for successful landscape photographers for this very reason, as I have a somewhat understanding of just how much effort has gone into producing their collection of images.
4. Learn as much as you can about your favorite genre of photography. You never stop learning, and I like to think that I’m only just learning the basics in a lifelong quest to feel fulfilled. I never stop trying to learn, and I quite regularly seek tuition and workshops from photographers who I deem to be among the best in landscape photography in my area. I love to learn more and fuel my desires to learn as much as I can about the craft of photography. I’ve met some great people along my short journey so far, and I’ve found the community of Australian landscape photographers to be a friendly one where we try to share knowledge to benefit one another.
Identify your favorite photographers in your area and don’t be afraid to contact them about receiving some paid for knowledge sharing. Don’t expect that these photographers will just tell you everything that they know for free; instead, respect that these photographers need to make a living from what they do.
5. Finally my last tip is to just simply get out there and shoot! Learn by doing! Stop talking about it and just do it! Achieve better results through committed action. There will be many frustrations and mistakes along the way, but mistakes are another word for experience. For each failed shoot a lesson will be learned and this is what will greatly help you become a better photographer. I’ve made my share of mistakes and I’m quite sure I’ll continue to make a few more as I get more experienced, but I can tell you that I am much better for each mistake that I’ve made. For example, I once left behind an L-bracket that holds the camera on my tripod head in the car while I was bound for a pre-dawn waterfall shoot. Only once I had arrived after completing the hour long trek in the dark did I realize that I forgot the L-bracket. Years on and I’ve never forgotten that same L-bracket ever again.
About the Author:
Australian landscape photographer Ricardo Da Cunha (http://www.ricardodacunha.com.au) specializes in running landscape photography courses and providing private photography tuition.
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